Implicate Order


Strong backlighting reveals the intricacies of form, pattern and texture in this daylily. It’s a wonder to me that the plant has chosen, over evolutionary time, to reveal its complexity and beauty in single flowers for just one day, depending upon multiple individuals for pollination.

The flower’s growth pattern provides an excellent metaphor for the ontological concept of “implicate” and “explicate” order, a quantum theory coined by theoretical physicist David Bohm.

The description in Wikipedia describes it very well:

The notion of implicate and explicate orders emphasizes the primacy of structure and process over individual objects. The latter are seen as mere approximations of an underlying process. In this approach, quantum particles and other objects are understood to have only a limited degree of stability and autonomy… Bohm believes that the weirdness of the behavior of quantum particles is caused by unobserved forces, maintaining that space and time might actually be derived from an even deeper level of objective reality. In the words of F. David Peat, Bohm considers that what we take for reality are “surface phenomena, explicate forms that have temporarily unfolded out of an underlying implicate order.” That is, the implicate order is the ground from which reality emerges.

To help us laypersons better understand his theory, Dr. Bohm provided a model of reality as a rolled up carpet. Within the carpet there are forms, patterns and textures—just like the daylily bud. The patterns are “implicate” relative to us because we can’t see them. It’s only when the carpet is unrolled—or the daylily’s bud opened—that they become known to us. And specific—explicate. The theory shows us that a deeper, objective reality preexists the everyday surface reality that we experience.

The daylily analogy works even better for me because the features of the flower, once opened, are dramatic. I have to try to visualize a pattern within a rolled-up carpet, but the daylily displays an “underlying process” of tremendous cellular complexity and order. In the unfurled flower it’s easier to get a sense of the plant’s evolution—long before 70 A.D. when it began to be cultivated in China. Now when I see the long narrow buds, I realize that they contain realities waiting to be revealed. Perceived. Just so, it’s comforting to think that there’s an implicate order to my life, to all life, and that every day it perfectly unfolds another aspect. And its beauty. It speaks to their newness, preciousness and uniqueness.

The opening and closing of daylilies has long been a metaphor for lifecycles—rising and falling, breathing in—breathing out, life and death. When I took the daylilies into the studio to photograph them, I thought they would fold up if I didn’t keep a bright light on them—to mimic sunlight. I was wrong. When I left a cut plant in water and in total darkness for an entire day, the blossom was still open and brilliant in the evening when I turned the lights back on. The flower’s opening and closing mechanism is less a factor of sunlight, than a result of its biological clock. It just knows when a day begins and when it ends, irrespective of whether or not the sun is shining. In a coal mine the flowers would open and close as the day begins and ends. Remarkable!

The strong backlight reminds me of another phenomenon—fractal geometry. The irregular appearance around the ends of the petals displays the same kind of irregularity as that seen around the coastline of an island. Were we to zoom in and examine the edge at any point, it would display a smaller version of the same pattern, even on down to the cellular level, thus revealing order. In fractals we can actually see what we’ve fairly recently learned through the study of quantum mechanics, that there are entirely different levels of reality, each with their own set of rules. And running through them all a common foundation—consciousness—the maker of rules.

The correspondence of broccoli florets, a firefly’s eye, courtship rituals, and dreamscapes with galactic nebula reveal a natural, folded up self-similarity. These examples point to the universality of the fractal as a central organizing principle of our universe; wherever we look, the complex systems of nature and time in nature seem to preserve the look of details at finer and finer scales. Fractals show a hidden holistic order behind things, a harmony in which everything affects everything else.

Jean Houston

Indeed, “everywhere we look,” particularly in the geometry of living systems, we find pervasive and consistent order. The patterns that repeat, as evidence of deep evolutionary development, builds confidence that nature knows what she’s doing. Even in us. And that’s a reason to hope.

At the heart of the most random or chaotic event lies order, pattern, and causality, if only we can learn to see it in large enough context.

Corinne McLaughlin

Linda cut some daylilies from her garden and I took them into the studio where I could light and photograph them against both black and white backgrounds. The strong backlight with just a hint of “fill” coming from a diffuse source in front of the flower accounts for the translucent quality of the leaves and the highlights rimming them. You may have to zoom out in order to see them, but the starlight flares on the left and top were “happy accidents,” the result of spritzing the flower with water to create some drops.




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